We don’t have to care, part I

I don’t like traveling.

That said, my trip the other day set a new record. I chalk it up to the new "We don’t care, we don’t have to" economy. In many segments, so much profit has been squeezed out that there’s no room to hire and train great people. And there’s not enough competition to harm the bad actors.

I got to JFK with plenty of time. Good thing, too, because the parking lot next to the terminal is closed. The signs are optimistic, though, and point you to the relocated short term parking. Same crazy pricing, of course.

Well, it turns out that it takes half an hour on the bus to get from the parking to the terminal. They have half as many buses as they need, and at $24 a day, it’s not because they can’t afford it. It’s because they don’t have to care.

Got to American, an airline that gave up a long, long time ago. The line for security is 30 people long. But wait! there’s a sign that says, "Business class, Gold, Platinum, etc." I walk over to the sign. The harried woman checking boarding passes says, "Go to the end of the line."

"But there’s a sign."

"I know there’s a sign. We ignore that."

As I stand in line for ten minutes, I watch this act repeated with no less than ten people. It never occurs to the TSA or to American to take down the sign. They don’t care. They don’t have to.

I get on the plane. It hasn’t been refurbished in a decade or more. The seats are creaky. The flight costs more than ten times as much as JetBlue, but nothing about it remarkable in any way. The amazing thing is that I recognized the staff from past flights. Good people. People capable of trying. But they don’t care any more, because management gave up a long time ago.

I get to the Avis counter at SFO. The two women behind the counter have no other customers. I am not making this up–they literally are cackling with glee when my paperwork is messed up. The best thing that happened to them all day. And then when I present my credit (not debit) card, they cackle that they don’t take debit cards, and engage me in a spirited debate about whether or not it is a debit card after all. They don’t care, they don’t have to.